Catastrophic Deficit of Leadership
Democracy in the western world is in deep crisis over a catastrophic leadership deficit. Reform requires policies that necessitate change. It is easy to elicit fear in the prospect of change. Good policy is either never presented, or is struck down at an election because whichever party is in opposition presses the fear button and wins the popular vote. Binary politics has become the death of democracy.
The deficit is most obvious in energy and climate policy (now is not the time to talk about climate change -Morrison), but is far from restricted to this arena. Political policy making lags so far behind the need for reform, it has become almost irrelevant to the big issues faced by contemporary society. In a previous age three estates, the Church, the Nobility and the Commons competed for their interests to be heard and preferably safeguarded. Media the fourth estate, has the task of making events and trends known.
What might those three estates be today? The commons, or civil society, must surely be the first estate, may I suggest, business and the business community the second, and government the third. In a democracy the ‘commons’ or the interest of the public should prevail. But is this the case? Notwithstanding the claim made by politicians that their first duty is to listen to the electorate, clearly this duty has limits. As noted in a previous blog, the voice of ordinary people, especially whistle blowers, is treated with suspicion, even animosity. As major issues continue to suffer from a policy vacuum this voice will not be shut down and will increasingly take to the streets, as recently observed with the student climate strike. Increasingly businesses will adopt moral or ethical positions on significant issues, as has recently been the case in relation to climate and gender equality. Politicians are ignorantly wrong in thinking they have the right to tell business to stay with money making and ignore deeper moral and ethical issues. It is probable that these two estates will increasingly work in partnership together. The interest of business must be aligned with the interest of the public. Government does all in its power to stop this growing partnership, for it perceives it to be trespassing on its own territory. While politics lacks the capacity, or the will, to fulfil its responsibilities, this collaboration will grow stronger.
Those who aspire to serve through a political calling almost always start altruistically in service of the common good, but inevitably find themselves serving the party and ideology with which they identify. Those who watched the recent ABC series Total Control would have been struck by the mirror that it held up to present practice and in particular would have some sympathy for the plight in which Ken Wyatt the minister for Indigenous Affairs finds himself, torn between the voice of his own people and the government’s refusal to listen to words that do not fit their world view.
Let’s have look at some of the most glaring deficits.
No one is under any illusion that even if Australia moved immediately to zero emissions, this action would, on its own, make the slightest difference to climatic change already the frightening experience of many. We are part of a global community in which greenhouse gases recognise no national boundary. That is not the point. So what is the point?
Economic and social policy:
Democracy will continue to be devoid of leadership while: